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You experience sort of a reverse Wizard of Oz moment when you enter Capital Q BBQ. Rather than waltzing into a surreal, Technicolor world, you leave behind D.C.’s pictogram-heavy equivalent of Oz and strut into a smoky, two-fisted, virtually black-and-white version of central Texas at this Chinatown haunt. No Munchkin could ever hope to survive in this wannabe roadhouse that promotes a Texas barbecue experience.
Maybe no real Texan, either, if you judge Capital Q by its brisket, arguably the defining cut of Lone Star State barbecue. The pitmasters here smoke the brisket in an Ole Hickory unit for 12 hours, but you’d barely know it from the ribbons of freshly sliced beef served up at the counter. The slices are undeniably moist, particularly those cut from the fatty end, but they have barely a whiff of smoky perfume or seasoning. When Texans complain of “barbecue” that tastes like roast beef, this is the stuff they’re thinking about.
The nicely pink and chewy spare ribs, served dry like the brisket, are also a smoke-free zone. Their dominant flavor is the rub, which has a sweet, almost-cinnamon-like flavor to it. You can, of course, slather any of Capital Q’s meats with one of the joint’s vinegar-based sauces, but then that’s not exactly Texas-style barbecue, is it?
Capital Q may be one of the few barbecue joints where I prefer the sides over smoky main attractions, particularly the subtly piquant collard greens, which are not cooked down to mush. I think that says plenty about Capital Q.